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The violent pro-Trump mob flooding the Capitol Rotunda on January 6 (photo by Bucky Turco, used with permission)

US Capitol curators have requested $25,000 in emergency conservation funding to repair art damaged when pro-Trump rioters stormed the government building on January 6.

There are 13,000 objects in the House collection, including portraits, photographs, and campaign memorabilia, 535 items of which were on display during the insurrection. Some of them were spared by quick thinking on part of staffers — such as a 1819 silver inkstand, the oldest object in the Chamber, which was secured by a journal clerk.

But that was not the case for every piece in the sprawling collection. In addition to looting and damaging furniture and spraying graffiti throughout the complex, insurrectionists vandalized six sculptures and two paintings.

Several objects in the corridors adjacent to the House Chamber doors were covered in chemical residue from fire extinguishers and bear spray that rioters used to blind officers. According to a report by the Capitol’s curatorial team, fire extinguisher particulate can discolor surfaces, especially porous stones like the marble and granite of busts of Speakers Joe Cannon, Champ Clark, Joe Martin, and Thomas Brackett Reed that were on view during the siege.

A bronze bust of Chippewa statesman Be sheekee, one of the few representations of Native American figures in the Capitol, and a statue of Thomas Jefferson, are also among the impacted works.

Insurrectionists vandalized six sculptures and two paintings during the riot. (screenshot of a report for the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives)

“Each year, the funds appropriated to the Clerk include plans for scheduled, programmatic conservation work. The damage from January 6, however, was significant,” said Farar Elliott, curator of the House of Representatives, in a testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee last month.

The budget for collection care includes funds to cover a single unforeseen conservation emergency each year, such as HVAC failures. “In the past, that emergency plan has been sufficient,” Elliott said. “The current emergency conservation needs will require funds beyond our current
contingency plan and beyond our six-object annual conservation plan.”

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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